Believe It

I was fantastically moved by today’s baptisms at Emmanuel Baptist Church, my home base in Brooklyn. Members, guests, and families applauded, snapped pictures, shed tears as several young people were dipped into water with a prayer for this profound new chapter in their lives. I found myself covered in goosebumps.

I felt a sense of deja vu: I was instantly reminded of taking my own walk with my other mom, Deacon Ruth Corbett, in August 2001. I knew I liked the vibe of EBC on my occasional visits–the straightforward messages, preached to people who looked like me, who struggled like me. I didn’t hesitate, compelled to squeeze past my pew neighbors to join the fellowship. I was welcomed warmly and blessed for my epiphany.

I was baptized on September 19, a week after brutal terrorist onslaughts in the US, attacks that found me in SoHo, on a patio watching firsthand a second plane crash into the towers. What followed was a blur of a colleague’s apartment crammed with trembling co-workers, ash-covered and blank-eyed survivors, frantic check-ins with classmates, friends, sorors, and family (my aunt was in an adjacent tower; we waited an agonizing 10 hours to hear from her). Fourteen years later, no country appears safe from violent, pointless attacks, as witnessed just in the past two weeks. I hope that our new members find community, camaraderie, and a sense of security through renewed faith, as I did. In the meantime, I’ll live day by day, with mercy and grace. I wish the same for us all. Cheers.

NH

Losing It for Lent

I grew up Catholic. Decades later, I would find a new home in a Baptist church: being among more people of color, particularly younger ones, moved me in a different way. I had the bells, the sermons, the dance ministry, Communion…and Lent.

I have been trying to stick the landing for Lent since grade school. Give up something. Make a sacrifice that could never begin to match that of Jesus’s. Make it big, or make it small, but make it. I know two friends offhand who are scary good at making these commitments. They think on it, find something they freakin’ love—chocolate, liquor, sex, the Internet—and boom, it’s done. Gone till that fateful Sunday. They struggle, it’s not easy—it shouldn’t be—but every year they name something they’re celebrating with post-Lent.

pizzaThey’ve learned not to ask me about my sacrifice, even if I’ve loudly proclaimed it to keep myself honest. This is so, so kind of them, because as with New Year’s resolutions, I usually clock in about 72 hours before I bail out HARD, feasting on whatever will get me through. One year I “gave up” ice cream… I could hear Häagen-Dazs laughing at me within two days. Another year I gave up chocolate… because I don’t like chocolate. I’m pretty ridiculous.

With this in mind, I decided to try a different approach this year. Although not a sacrifice per se, believe me when I say I’m depriving myself of something that I’m used to getting daily, possibly hourly. Something that deeply feeds me. How I wish it were chocolate… Alas…

For Lent, I’ll be silencing my inner critic. All the way—help me, Lord—through Easter. It’s just the Friday after Ash Wednesday but so far, so good. Good, but hard. Harder than ice cream. Harder than Facebook (no really), harder than DVR. Harder than sex by a mile (shut up!).

Now, I know we all have moments of doubt, or have sh*tty days, are maybe having a quarter-life crisis where we’re contemplating saying eff it & joining the Peace Corps. My critic? Is a BEAST. A monster, in the most unchill sense of the word. Like last week: spur of the moment, I experimented and decided for one full day I would “think positively” (which my inner critic noted with supreme sarcasm; what kinda hippie was I trying to be?).

The result was pretty gruesome. I woke up and thought it was too early to be up & I needed a few more hours. Not a snooze button: I needed hours. Damn, did I have to go out? The weather was a mess (if I’m honest, I can find cracks in the weather index at the height of spring). My shower takes too long to heat up. I hate the painting on my wall; it’s cheap and looks cheaper. Was I hungry? Why wasn’t I hungry? I can never find my shoes and this is somehow symptomatic of my life to date. And on. I better not slip on these stairs; everyone knows how klutzy I am. Ugh, this dude on the corner is a disaster. Is his life as awful as mine? Let me do a visual inventory to compare. Nope, he’s talking to a girlfriend; points off for me, single on Valentine’s.

Continue reading “Losing It for Lent”

The Prophet

Hey folks,

It occurred to me I hadn’t posted a short story in a while. This one felt appropriate. Enjoy~
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When I saw Dorian coming up Clinton Avenue, I’d cross the street. Whether or not I had the right of way. Whether or not it made me late. Whether I struggled with a packed shopping cart at nightfall, or strolled by in cutoffs and flip-flops to sun at Fort Greene Park. Only one thing mattered: that I avoid eye contact with my uncle.

Dorian had once been first in his class at Brooklyn Tech. He was in the Air Force for a while. In my childhood, he was the only consistent male role model I had, but I knew a different version of him then. He’d taken his high-school sweetheart on a first date wearing an all-white silk suit and grey shark skin shoes; it was tough, squaring that image with the man I later knew. The person he had become made rounds through the neighborhood wearing overlapping strands of red, black, and green beads across his neck. Over those were roped dozens of religious pendants: Jesus with neon white eyes, a brown Mary with outstretched arms, tangled among layers of crosses of fake silver and gold. And in the crook of one arm, always present, was his Bible. Dorian couldn’t eat or sleep without it. I mean this literally. Toward the end, he couldn’t use the bathroom without having it in his sight.

Continue reading “The Prophet”